LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Hands-On PreviewBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Jun 08, 2010
It's been five years since LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game surprised the hell out of everyone, but after a LEGO version of Indiana Jones, Batman, another dip into Indiana Jones and, uh, more Star Wars, we're finally getting a block-by-block interpretation of The Boy Who Lived, even though Harry Potter's obsession with magic makes it seem incredibly obvious. I recently had a chance to see how well they integrate after going hands-on with LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4.
The game follows the first four years of J.K. Rowling's story, saving the rest for what's logical to assume is another game chronicling the other three years. There's plenty for Traveller's Tales to work with, though, and all the LEGO traditions are here in spades, which means if you don't already know the Harry Potter tale, nothing here is going to make sense. The LEGO version of exposition is quick and witty cut-scenes with absolutely no dialogue; everything is communicated via sight gags whose punch line is only visible to fans who can fill in the dots. Since Harry Potter is a nice mix of darkness, fantasy and fun, the formula works really well here.
LEGO Star Wars was wonderful because the Force let the designers set up hilarious situations for players to interact with. LEGO Indiana Jones had trouble because that element was lost, while LEGO Batman was able to mostly side-step it with copious gadgets. LEGO Harry Potter lets Traveller's Tales play with magic again, but ironically, magic may be causing more issues than it solves. One of the great joys of the LEGO games is futzing with everything around you, hoping for another splurge of colorful studs. On every screen in Harry Potter, there are what feels like hundreds of areas to poke around in. Not only can the variety be overwhelming, but simply getting the game to focus on a specific area for interaction proved unnecessarily difficult. For those who desire nothing more than an endless stream of collect-a-thon possibilities, this may be a total dream.
I'm not someone who obsesses over collecting everything, however, so while zeroing in on a particular object was frustrating, it gave way to simply pushing forward, collecting whatever was obvious and moving on, which is how I've played every other LEGO game. Plus, it just meant I quickly returned to running around the fleshed-out Hogwarts, aka the coolest hub world ever.
With access to four years of Potter, variety shouldn't be an issue in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. I worry a lack of limitations in the universe itself may have pushed Traveller's Tales to play too much with the game's interactivity, but there's only a few weeks to see if that holds true.